Welcome to the 21st Century! Are you ready to create websites, blogs, podcasts, or movies? Kids are all about wires and visuals, and it’s time for teachers to catch up and keep up. Teachers across the nation are using technology in innovative ways to enhance the learning experience across the curriculum. Here are five exciting ways you can go high-tech on a budget:
Create an Interactive Classroom Website
Today websites are easier than ever to create. There are a ton of free hosting and website creators specifically designed for teacher created websites. Here are just a few -Teacher Website, School and Teacher, School Rack, Class Notes Online, Educator Pages, Class Jump, Teacher Web, EZ Class Sites, Bloust. These websites offer everything you need to get started, but if you are like me, and you want to maintain control of your site in case your host disappears, I highly recommend using Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003. You will want the 2003 version. They are no longer making updates to Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003, but it is still a great starter program.
If you are technically savvy you might want to check out Microsoft Expression Media 2 Mac/Win, the new web master program from Microsoft or Adobe Dreamweaver CS4.A classroom website is a great way to communicate with parents, display student created work, provide downloadable copies of assignments and projects, and share your resources with other teachers. You can get your kids involved in designing pages and adding content. You can open your site up to the public or make it password protected. Students love to visit their teacher’s sites to get updates and instructions for assignments and links to sites for research or just playing educational games. Check out these classroom websites, and when you finish your site, stop by and add your link.
Blog for Literacy
The blogosphere has reinvented the Internet and revolutionized how the ordinary person communicates with the world. News and information moves online at warp speed, and bloggers are the engine on the keyboard. Your students will most likely read and write blogs by the time they are adults (probably sooner). You can jump on the blogging bandwagon and add new dimensions to your instruction. In the old days (old days being just recently in this case) students wrote written responses to literature in journals. We had every kind of journal imaginable. Now we have the opportunity to take our journaling online. Blogs are the perfect way for students to write their entries. The advantage of using blogs is the opportunity to interact.
Blogs allow comments. Students can comment (journaling back) on other student’s blogs. The teacher can leave comments, or open it up so that parents can get in on the blogging fun as well. There are lots of possibilities for blogs. You can create class journals on a novel study, a themed blog on a social studies or science topic, literature circle blogs, individualized reading and journaling blogs, poetry blogs, fiction blogs, and more. You can take your blogs as far as your imagination can go. The only thing standing in your way is filters. In order to use Blogger or WordPress, you will most likely need special permission to have the filters turned off. Another option is to use a blogging site designed specifically for teachers and students. Here are a few places to check out for creating blogs: Class Blogmeister (free), Class Press (charges $24.95 a year), 21 Classes (free and paid subscriptions), Gaggle (free), and Edublogs (free).
Podcasts are similar to radio shows. You can feature one or multiple speakers, add music, give lectures, do interviews, or create a “radio show” type of performance. Once you create your podcast you post it to a website (a classroom, school, or district website is perfect). In order to create your podcast you need a quality microphone that connects to the computer like the Alesis USB Mic Podcast Kit and podcasting software. You can download free podcasting software at Audacity. Once you are set up and ready to go, it is time to decide what kind of podcast you want your students to create. Perhaps they are working in a literature circle. Could the create a podcast of their discussions around the book? You might want your students to plan an old fashioned storytelling podcast similar to radio shows in the olden days. A student could create a podcast to share information they have researched, or maybe they could interview an expert on a subject they are studying. Students could read their writing out loud, or create a poetry reading podcast. There are many options and opportunities in podcasting for the creative and reflective teacher. Podcasts allow students to make their voices heard, to practice public speaking, and to apply their knowledge orally.
Movie Making combines reading, writing, theatre arts, and technology into one dynamic and exciting project. Students create a script based on their imaginations or a known story. A first time script might revolve around a classic story or fairy tale. They will plan, write, practice, perform, and film their movie. The end result is exciting! Here a few steps to follow:1. Brainstorm the movie topic. Students (or the teacher) decide what their movie is going to be about. They might create something from scratch or use a storybook as a guide.2. Plan the scenes. Each scene requires detailed planning. Begin by deciding what scenes you will need in your movie, and putting them in an order. Don’t forget your introduction and credits!3. Partners or small groups of students can plan each scene in detail.
They will need to write the script and plan the actions. They will also need to decide where the scene will take place, what the set will look like, and what props they will need. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does need to be well thought out.4. Plan, practice, and film each scene. Once the scenes are written and designed you will need to assign “actors” for each scene, put the props and set together, rehearse, and film. You will want to use a good digital movie camera like the SANYO DIGITAL MOVIE CAMERA and a tripod like the Sunpak 620-092 9002DX Tripod with 3-Way Quick-Release Pan Head.5. Next you will need to load your movie into a movie making software. If you have Microsoft Office, you most likely have Microsoft Movie Maker. If you want to upgrade, I recommend Pinnacle Studio Version 12.Once your movie is made you can hold a “movie premiere” complete with popcorn and drinks. You can also post your movie onto your class website. Don’t forget to get parent’s permission for their children to appear in the movie and to place it online. Check out Beth Newingham’s website to see great examples of class movies.
An eBook is an electronic book made available online for readers to download. Today ebooks are more exciting than ever to create. You can combine text, audio, images, and video to make your eBook stand out.You can choose to create a class ebook, small group ebooks, or individual ebooks. Select a topic, research it, write it, and put it together in a Microsoft Word Document. Add pictures, audio, or video clips to make it even more exciting. Upload your document to Lulu, mark it private, set it up as a free download, and give parents the password to access it. Your eBook can be as long or as short as you want. You can also save a copy to your computer (save it after you upload it and preview it on Lulu where it is turned into a pdf file) and burn it onto a cd to give to each student.Students can create poetry books, a magazine, a book of stories, and more. Ebooks are another way to combine writing and technology into an interactive and dynamic product. Digital storytelling is possible at any grade level.
All you need is a camera like the Flip Video Ultra Series Camcorder, 60-Minutes (Black), a simple microphone and Microsoft Movie Maker. Another option is to place your pictures into Microsoft PowerPoint and set it as a slide show. Once you have your technology set and ready to go, you will need to get your students to write and illustrate. Take them through the entire writing process. Students create their stories and lay them out on a storyboard. The easiest way to do this is to either give them a sheet of paper for each scene, or to place each scene into a PowerPoint slide. Combine words and illustrations on the same page (like a picture book). Videotape or snap picture of each page and place them into your movie making software or PowerPoint. Add audio of your student reading their story aloud and music for the background. The end result is a digital storybook.Integrating technology into the curriculum is a worthy investment of your time. The opportunity to engage your students shouldn’t be missed. They will have a blast using technical tools to create a product based on their learning.